emily bestler books 2013
dear reader, We’re so excited to present you with a peek at five recent and upcoming titles, which we hope will remind you of the very first time you fell in love with a book, and leave you hungry for more. We’re thrilled to be publishing these titles, all of which reflect our guiding principle to publish the very best reads available across
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a broad range of genres. These excerpts will transport you to a crumbling farmhouse in the south of France, catapult you into a series of pulse-pounding high-profile kidnapping cases in the nation’s capital, and ensnare you in the psychological drama that unfolds when a suburban family’s life is threatened by a series of chilling accidents. From literary ghost stories by bestselling authors, to heartwarming women’s fiction debuts, to heart-pounding techno-thrillers,
The Mouse-Proof Kitchen 4 Under Your Skin 12 Accidents Happen 24
Emily Bestler Books’ list is as varied as our readers. We hope that you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed publishing them!
Game 36 Hidden Order 48
A deeply moving and thought-provoking debut novel about how the best parts of life are often the most complicated.
The Mouse-Proof Kitchen BY SAIRA SHAH
has won three Emmys for
her films Unholy War, Beneath the Veil, and Death in Gaza. She has also written an autobiography, The Storytellerâ€™s Daughter. Saira
retired from filmmaking in 2003 and divides her time between the UK and France.
9781476705644 | HARDCOVER | 6 X 9 | 352 PAGES | $25.00/$28.99 CAN
Connect with Saira Shah online
an excerpt from
THE MOUSE-PROOF KITCHEN CHAPTER ONE
Pains come and go.
I’m riding on waves of them. They’re nothing like the orgasmic surges described by my New Age birthing teacher, but not nearly as bad as my mother’s tales of pelvises split in two and of women losing their minds from the agony. I suck on gas and air and long for the sight of Tobias’s face, full of roguish charm, as if he’s inviting the world to share a secret joke with him. When my mother first met him, she told him he looked like a friendly horse. It’s a comparison he loathes, but I cherish it. And finally here he is, his dark curls even more rumpled than usual, typically late for the birth of his first child. His haggard look is, I’m sure, simply due to an ill-timed night out on the town. Tobias is not one of nature’s worriers.
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I have a moment to be amazed that I knew, from the instant I first clapped eyes on him, lurching about on a dance floor, that he’d be the ideal mate and father of my child. Then the midwife gives a kind of cry: the baby’s heartbeat is lost. Suddenly the room is full of lights. People in blue scrubs and masks rush in and Tobias, unshaven and sweaty, is weeping and saying: “Yes, yes, anything, but please just make sure they’re all right,” and I’m being given an epidural and then I’m having an emergency cesarean. They put up a screen and there’s a strange rummaging as if somebody is moving furniture around in my insides. I’m drifting in and out of consciousness. And the drugs—the natural ones of childbirth and the sock-off powerful ones of the doctors—must both of them be great because, after nine months of obsessive fretting, I am calm and Zen. More pulling. Somebody shouts:
“It’s a girl!” There’s a loud wail: my baby is here; she is behind the screen. They won’t let me see her. Seconds seem like hours. I’m wild to see her.
Finally, finally, they bring her to me. She has wide gray eyes, one a bit smaller than the other. I have a second of thinking: she’s no beauty. Then a switch flips in my head and the nicest and best possible kind of face is a little lopsided with slightly uneven gray eyes. Tobias appears at my side, weeping uncontrollably with happiness, pride, and love. It’s a perfect moment. One of those rare times when you wouldn’t prefer to be anywhere else, doing anything else. Where past and future melt away and there’s only now. They’re wheeling me out on a trolley with the baby tucked beside me and I’m thinking: this is just the beginning. She’s mine now, forever, to have and to hold. We’ve got all our lives to get to know each other. I feel a flood of love like I’ve never felt before; it extends to the baby, to Tobias and radiates out from there, enough of it to light up a whole world. I’ve seen a couple of newborn babies before, and each of them was quivering, as if in awe at the splendor of this world and the immensity of the distance it had travelled. But not this one. My own little space traveler is perfectly serene. Then she starts to twitch. I catch a glimpse of a clenched fist shaking. Tobias shouts: “She’s having a fit!”
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I have a moment of primitive, instinctive dread: Oh no, it’s over for this baby. Our normal lives are over.
and lovely long legs like him and straight light-brown hair and wide, serious eyes like me.
It’s hard to tell if the morphine’s worn off. I’m still woozy and confused, but I’m also in terrible pain.
Once again it looks like a scene from ER as doctors in scrubs rush in.
That she will have his joie de vivre and my flair for organization.
It’s a huge effort to recall where I am: in the small private room the hospital keeps for what it calls special cases. Beside me somebody is snoring, reminding me that Tobias has been allowed to sleep here on a folding bed. On the table next to me my mobile phone starts ringing. I fumble and reject the call. Seconds later a text bleeps: “neews?” My best friend, Martha. Architect. Single. Too busy to spell. I have no idea what to say to her. I push it away.
If you want things to happen, you have to plan them. I know this: I’m a chef. To make a béchamel sauce, for instance, you need the right ingredients in the right proportions, at the right time. Measuring, timing, taking care. These are all things I’m naturally good at. Tobias doesn’t understand this. He’s a musician who composes music for TV documentaries and for short films. He rarely gets up before noon and leaves papers, clothes, and the debris of his life strewn everywhere. He is chronically, horrendously late. He says he likes to be open to fate and this he calls creativity. I’m creative too. But you can’t be sloppy with a sauce. It just doesn’t work. Since we first started trying to have a baby, I’ve planned every last detail. I know: That our daughter will be called Freya (a nice old-fashioned name with a slightly New Age meaning: a Nordic goddess of love and birth), even though Tobias says I’ll have to trample over his dead body first. That our child will have broad shoulders
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That as soon as we get out of this hospital we’re going to sell up and move to the South of France. So now, as I lie here in a morphine-induced haze, doctors in scrubs whisking Tobias and the baby away can’t faze me. My plans are laid. All will be well. In southern France, the sun will shine kindly on us. The people will be friendly. Our daughter will grow up bilingual, sophisticated, safe from pedophiles. She won’t need the latest Nike trainers; she won’t eat junk. I can see the house we’ll buy: a cottage in Provence with roses and hollyhocks around the door, a field of lavender dotted with olive trees, the deep blue of the sea merging into the azure sky. I’m floating over that sea, those fields and that house where somewhere, far below, Tobias, the baby and I are living our perfect lives.
I’m awake early. I want to be with my baby.
A nurse arrives to take out my catheter. I’d no idea I had one; I seem to have become divorced from my body at some forgotten point in the past eight hours or so. Pulling it out hurts like hell. I vomit, whether from the pain or the morphine I don’t know. “Are you all right?” asks the nurse and I’ve no idea of the answer, but I need to get up so I lie that I’m fine and ask, “Could I please go and see my baby now?” Our daughter is in a darkened room full of machines going tapocca tapocca tapocca and babies the size of your fist in transparent incubators under strange colored lights. I recognize her immediately: she’s twice the size of any other
baby in the room. She’s in an open cot, curled fetally, with a tube coming out of her nose and a wire taped to her foot. Above her head there’s a bank of monitors breaking her down into a series of vital signs: heartbeat, oxygen saturation, respiration. A nurse explains that this is NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit, and shows us how to pick her up without disturbing all the tubes. I hold my baby for the first time. She’s perfect: rosebud mouth, elfin ears, eyes tight shut. I can count her eyelashes— four on her right eyelid, five on her left— and imagine them growing secretly in my womb like seeds under the earth.
“She’s beautiful,” says a doctor. I feel a flood of pleasure and pride. “If you don’t mind, Mum, I’m going to use some special instruments to look at the back of baby’s eyes.” He takes her gently out of my arms and I watch her, utterly absorbed in her, as they examine her. I listen to him discussing her with his registrar. It’s very technical. They seem to be finding lots of things they’re looking out for. I feel pleased for them, pleased with the baby.
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Over 35.5 Million Books Sold Worldwide! After a long time he turns to me. “She has a coloboma in her left eye. The retina of that eye hasn’t formed properly and the iris of the same eye didn’t form completely either.”
and addresses himself to the doctor. “I have quite a few questions.” He looks at me significantly. “I wonder if we could have a chat outside.”
I look at him uncomprehendingly, because surely anybody can see that this little being is just as she should be.
I watch the door close behind them, thinking how oddly they’re all behaving. I only need to hold my baby in my arms to know that she’s perfect.
“Your child will not be blind,” he says. “She may be a bit long-sighted.”
© SAIRA SHAH, 2013
The Most Discussed Book of The Year
The switch in my head flips and the lopsided face morphs again: a dear little kooky girl with outsize spectacles peering long-sightedly out of a school photo. And that in its turn becomes the sweetest and best of all possible faces. “We’ll have to have an MRI scan to be certain,” says the doctor, “but it seems that her problems could be rooted in the brain.” But I’m not paying attention because, as he hands my baby back to me, happy nurturing hormones are flooding into me, overwhelming me. They’re at odds with all these awful words and far more powerful than any of them. “It feels as if I’m falling through the floor,” says Tobias.
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Photo © Adam Bouska
I wish he could share my certainty that everything is going to be fine. I smile at him. But he just snorts in exasperation
CONNECT WITH JODI
In this page-turning debut from Sabine Durrant, a woman makes a chilling discovery in the woods that changes her life forever.
Under Your Skin
BY SABINE DURRANT
Sabine Durrant is the author of two novels, Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors (Little, Brown), and two works of fiction for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh-La-La, ÂŠ MARK MAWSON
Connie Pickles (Puffin). She is a former assistant editor of The Guardian and a former literary editor at The Sunday Times whose feature writing has appeared in numerous British national newspapers and magazines.
She is currently a magazine profile writer for The Sunday Telegraph and a contributor to The Guardian Family section. She lives in south London with her
ORDERING OPTIONS COMING SOON
partner, the sports writer Giles Smith, and their three children. 9781476716237 | HARDCOVER | 6X9 | 368 PAGES | $25.00
Connect with Sabine Durrant online
I left the house earlier
path channels across the open grass towards the main road. The headlamps of cars—commuters who need to be at work earlier than me, if such a thing were possible—rake the pavement. A shape comes towards me almost silently, another runner, a flash of headphone and Lycra, gone in an intake of breath, a whiff of warmth and sweat. You are never alone in London, even in the dead of night, even in the bone-cold chill of a pre-dawn March morning. There is always the possibility of someone watching, following, seeing what you’re up to. I’m not sure I like it.
I take my usual route—over the bridge and round the football pitches, churned into clods like a choppy sea. It’s darkest where the path hits the corner, and there is an uncomfortable moment where you are hemmed in, rail cutting on one side, the adventure playground on the other. A blue anorak, sodden and draped, gives a creepily human form to a post and my pace quickens until the
It helps to run. The pace, the rhythm, the sensation of regular movement in my limbs gives order to my thoughts. I didn’t sleep well last night. Even in the short snatches of unconsciousness I dreamt I was awake. In the end, I had to get up. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. I will run, try and sort things in my mind, and then once home, I will shower. Steve will be there to drive me to the studio at 7 a.m. Kiss goodbye to Millie—Marta will give her breakfast. (I must try to get to know Marta better.) Will I see Philip? Probably not. Already now—what, 5:15 a.m.?—he is showering, shaving, shaking off Nobu and the Dorchester—I smelt the cigars when he stumbled in at 3 a.m.—elbowing into all that Lycra and peddling off on
an excerpt from
UNDER YOUR SKIN CHAPTER ONE than usual this morning and though it isn’t exactly dark, it isn’t yet light. The common is full of ghosts and shadows; the trees still iron-clad, unyielding figures to the early gauze of spring; the bushes and brambles along the railway line knotted and clumped: a mugger’s paradise, though I try not to think about that.
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his brand-new carbon bike for Mayfair, Tokyo, Bloomberg. We used to run together. (Matching running tops, his and hers Asics. Is it pitiable to say I loved that?) We haven’t run together since last summer. With the city as it is, he says, he needs serious muscle feedback. He needs powerful resistance. Running, he says, doesn’t come near his stress. My breath is ragged. I can feel it, hot, in my chest. It’s all wrong; I’m not doing it right. I’m hopeless; I’m a person who can’t even run properly. I turn up the central path, past the heart-rending bench where someone ties a wreath (“MUM”) at Christmas. It might help to filter out the trivia first. Philip’s parents: want an answer about Sunday lunch. Millie’s pretend birthday: beg Philip not to miss this one. (How could he have not turned up on Tuesday?) The weekend in Brighton... Something horrible happens in my stomach when I think about this. He says he’s too busy. “No biggie,” I said, but I didn’t mean it. It’s not even the kind of phrase I use. It was as if I was pretending to be someone younger, and sassier: India, that girl at work with the orthodontically perfected smile, Stan Kennedy’s protégée, pretty and clever enough to have her eye on my job. No biggie? Did Philip look at me oddly when I said that? Did I sound as if I was trying to be cool? No biggie. All this little stuff
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is big; that’s the problem. What’s trivial? What’s serious? Sunday lunch with Philip’s parents, fancy undies in a suite in Brighton, a younger woman’s pearly teeth, an eight-year-old blowing out her candles. It’s what life is made of. It’s all about love in the end. Up to the bridge and over. It’s busier out here now. Two other runners across the grass. A large dog nosing towards the pond. Three geese fly up, flapping, cackling. The sky is lifting—somewhere behind those lowering gunmetal clouds, a sun is rising, though even these blank trickles of light seem to flatten the common, leach it of contrast and colour. By the children’s playground, a toddler’s red shoe is stuck upside down on the grey railings. A wet, spotted ladybird hat hangs from a silvery branch. All these abandoned possessions, these bits of people left behind. Once, out running, I saw a pair of men’s pants in the undergrowth. How? It’s not like Clapham Common. It’s Wandsworth. We’re all Labradoodles and Rusty Racquets here, not Cabinet ministers in compromising positions. At the café, I make a split-second decision and turn off—a quick jog round the bowling green. But when I reach the hut by the tennis courts, something draws me on into the wilderness of the wooded
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copse beyond. I don’t usually run here. It’s only a triangle of denser trees, tall and narrow, that edge the football pitch, but you’re out of sight of the main drag. It feels too dodgy, too risky. Why do I do it? The gathering light? A desire to outrun the day? The manicure of the bowling green, and the sedateness of my pace? My hopeless failure to sort? I don’t know. Afterwards, I might say it was a sudden yearning to feel fresh vegetation beneath my feet, to push the pathetic tame boundaries of the common, to be, for a few seconds, on my own.
I can’t tell you. I’m not scared—I’m running too fast maybe—but it’s harder going than I expected. The ground is uneven, shifts to trip you up. Tree limbs poke at eye level; tangles of grass lunge at ankle. And then, through a criss-cross of branches, I see it. At first, I think of blow-up dolls. Or fish. Once, on holiday in the Isle of Wight, we came across a dead porpoise high up on the sands—unsettlingly pale and fleshy, a disturbing incongruity—and walking along the canal at Oxford years ago, when I was a student, I stumbled on a dead swan, stretched out across the embankment. It was shocking not
so much because it was dead—though there was a sense of savagery in the wasted beauty, all that whiteness—but because it was just there, because no one had cleared it up, I suppose, before me. I stop and push a little way into the undergrowth, pressing back the pale limbs of the silver birch saplings, to a place where dogs or foxes or a person, has worn the foliage flat, to where the muddle of object is. Then the full horror of what I can see hits and all I can think is, it’s not a doll or a fish or a swan. She is lying on her side, her bare white arms outstretched above her head, her back arched. Hair the colour of mahogany is yanked back away from her face, as though someone has pulled it. Her eyes are open, but they are glazed, as if covered in cling film. She has long, thick eyelashes—so long and thick they must be fake or extensions—a thin face, small teeth above a swollen tongue that is pushing out of her mouth against her bottom lip. She is wearing tight khaki-coloured trousers—Topshop perhaps —with pockets on the thighs and little zips on the ankles. Her feet are bare. Her toenails are polished, almost black. Her fingernails, in contrast, are ragged and torn. A triangle of black thong shows
where her pink cap-sleeved T-shirt has ridden up at the back. Her flesh —her face, her neck, some of her chest—is bluish-white, but there are marks— blood and cuts and scratches, tiny dots and horizontal dark lines and bruises— all over it. And her neck… I can’t bear to look at her neck. I haven’t screamed. I haven’t made any sound at all. Isn’t that odd? But I’m suddenly aware of my own breathing; it sounds like sobs, or retches. I’m sort of panting. There are lots of things I don’t expect—the Topshop thought, for example. Why do I care where she bought her trousers, or whether her eyelashes are fake? The details I notice, that I list, come at once, in a flood. I don’t process them, and when I do, I put them in words in my head. I’m ordering them. I’m thinking about telling other people. I’m already thinking about later. My hand is at my mouth and for a moment I think I am going to be sick. Bile has risen at the back of my throat, but I force it down and stagger out through the undergrowth to the path. I fumble for my phone, zipped in that thing round my neck, and it takes me several tries to unlock it. I keep pressing the buttons too fast. My fingers are too big; they are shaking so hard I almost drop it even as I get through.
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The voice at the other end is calm and quiet, so quiet I find myself repeating, “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” She says she can and I stumble out the details. I can’t remember the name of the road—the one that comes closest to this bit of the common, really near where I live, one of the roads parallel to mine, with the same big, solid houses, a road I know well—but I say, “Trinity Road, the prison, the Toast Rack. You know those roads in a grid? The café there. Common Ground. Just beyond. In that triangular bit of woodland.” She must have it up on a satnav screen or something, because she seems to know more than I do. She asks if I am okay, whether I feel in danger. She tells me to wait where I am. When the connection is cut, I suddenly don’t feel okay, not at all. I don’t know what to do with myself. I run back towards the tennis courts so I can see them coming, so I can show them where to go. No one is in sight—just the cars moving steadily backwards and forwards on Trinity Road across the cricket pitch, the distant roofs of Wandsworth Prison, the light changing above the big houses on that road whose name—Dorlcote—I now remember. A creak from the tennis hut; darkness behind the windows of the little cabin on the bowling green
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where years ago a skanky black and white cat used to live, though it’s long dead now. I’m the other side of the railway line from where I was earlier—a kilometre or two of running, but just a few metres of track. The banks on both sides are steep, but there are bushes and trees that drop their wet leaves in autumn and hold up the trains, shadows and dark corners where you could crouch. Children have made camps in the shrubbery just by me, hollows to hide in. A rustle—it could be a fox, or a squirrel, or just a bird, but for the first time I feel fear. I think someone is here, that I am being watched. I find myself darting back and forth along the path, heading towards the road, changing my mind and skitting back again. I’m what a rat might look like in laboratory conditions of stress. I’m out of sight of the girl and suddenly I have a feeling that she is gone, that someone has taken her, or that she was never there in the first place, and I’m running back down the path, tripping, stumbling, my arms out to save my face from the reaching twigs and branches, and I’m pushing through the hawthorn and gorse and silver birch—I don’t care about the scratches—until I reach that awful place. And I know even before I get there that she hasn’t gone, that she
is lying there, in that terrible contorted position, her eyes glazed, and she is still dead. It’s quiet for a moment. Birdsong, that’s all. A train squeals. It’s daylight, properly daylight. Green tips blunt the ends of branches near me. They must be buds. I’m going to be late for work—I’ll have to go straight to the studio, put my face on in the car—but I mustn’t think about that now. I crouch down, sit on the damp grass, and it’s just her and me. She looks so vulnerable. I notice a sharp, stale smell of hospital corridors or swimming-pool changing rooms. I try not to look at her eyes. Tiny pixilated spots cover her eyelids, up to thin plucked brows. I touch her hair. It feels dead, but then hair is, isn’t it? Something about her top—cap-sleeved, buttons down the front—nags at me. It’s pulled tight under one armpit and her bra is showing. The strap, a loose string of black lace, is dangling out at the front; it must have unpinged from its fastening. I don’t know why I do this. I do it almost without thinking. Something stirs inside and I take the loose string of black lace and slot its hook into the loop on the cup of the bra. My knuckles graze the fabric. It’s a cold, hard, wet surface. I can hear a noise, and I realise it’s coming from me. It’s the lullaby I used to sing to Millie when she needed calming. Even
then I never quite knew the right words: “Rockin’, rollin’, ridin’… all the way to sleepy town, many miles away…” The notes are getting stuck in my throat. They sound like moans. It feels like forever, but it is only a few minutes before a siren sounds. I knew something was going to happen from the moment I left the house. I had a feeling: a sinking, slightly cloying sensation in the pit of my stomach—an eerie premonition, if you like. Does that sound unconvincing, too far-fetched? Mea culpa if so.
Two of them come. A woman in uniform —she recognises me; I can tell from a quick flush in her cheeks and the glance she gives her colleague, slightly widening her eyes as if to say, “It’s her—you know, her off the telly.” If the man knows who I am, he’s not going to show it. He’s in his own clothes—jeans and a polo shirt —a sign of his importance in the police hierarchy. I’ve watched enough Morse to know that. He introduces himself, running the fingers of one hand through slightly greasy, thick, dark hair. He’s DI Perivale and, “This here is PC Morrow.” We’re at the tennis hut. I ran back when the siren stopped, when the blue light spun through the trees. I shake their
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hands, because the desire for physical contact is suddenly very strong. I can’t think about crying; I’m not the one who’s dead. PC Morrow, who is aged about twelve, holds my arm as we walk. She is small and freckly, with mid-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail; she is almost pretty, though her eyes are quite close together, and one of her front teeth is badly capped. She tells me she was just going off her shift when the call came in. “Already had my mind set on a bacon sarnie. Ketchup. Bit of brown sauce.” She’s putting me at my ease. DI Perivale doesn’t care about that. He’s stalking ahead—shoulders hunched, his jeans hung low at the back. He puts each foot in the ground like a skier places a ski pole, determined, as if to give balance. I don’t have to tell them where she is. It’s obvious. When we get close, DI Perivale tells me to wait on the path—or rather he shows me to wait by putting out his arm like a barrier. “CID. He’s just come on,” PC Morrow whispers apologetically. “We’ve called for the dogs. The soccer team will be along in a sec—eight minutes if they’re on a blue light, that’s my guess.” “The soccer team?” I ask, thinking of the football pitch only a few feet away. “SOCO—Scene of Crime officers. They’ll
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seal off the area, and they’ll do a fingertip search for evidence.” I ask her what sort of evidence and she says, “Anything—footprints, the weapon, fibres, blood, hair, paint, glass. It’s amazing what they pick up. So we can’t have you contaminating the scene.” “I hope I haven’t already contaminated it,” I say. She gazes into the undergrowth and tuts, wonderingly, “You really would think people would pick up after themselves.” For a bizarre moment, I think she means the body and I half laugh in shock, but then with her chin she gestures to a scrunched-up McDonald’s bag, spilling squashed polystyrene and bits of lettuce.
“Do you think that might be evidence?” I say, studying it. “More like bloody litter. Not to mention what all that fat and salt does to their arteries. Kids probably.”
“Kids,” I repeat, thinking, Who else has been out here? DI Perivale is still with the girl. He isn’t touching her; he is just crouched down, looking, and then he’s on his phone. He calls something out to PC Morrow— sounds like a stream of numbers—and she makes a call herself. Tiredness sways into my neck and head. When she hangs up, I ask if I can go, but she says she has to take down a few details first. I explain about being needed at work and she nods and replies, “I. Can. Understand. That,” drawing out the words, distinguishing between the pace of my life and the priorities of hers. Then she confers with DI Perivale, and then the two of us walk back to the café to find a bench. She says, “You look a bit different. I’m not being funny or anything, but you look younger than you do on the telly.” I laugh. “It’s the hair. Big hair. Big, red, daytime-telly hair. It’s quite fine hair really, but for the show it’s got so much lacquer in it’s like a helmet.” “Do you have a hairdresser to do it?” she says, and when I nod, “What, every day?” “It’s very surreal, this,” I say, “talking normally when…” “I know. Your first body is always a bit
of a shock. Someone said to me there are two smells a police officer gets an instinct for in the first year. One: dope. The other: death.” “There was a smell…” I say. She wrinkles her nose. “Like an old people’s home—sour.” “Something else,” I say. As she gets out her notebook, she lists, in the manner of someone cataloguing books they have recently enjoyed, the dead bodies she has seen in two years on the beat—a suicide (hanging), a traffic accident and a couple of heart attacks. “A suicide?” I say. “Yes, golly,” she says. “You get a lot of them in this job.” She tells me how women and men do it differently, overdoses and slit wrists, hangings and shootings. And I know I could stop to think about this, but it is all too much. I want to get home now, have a quick gulp of coffee if I have time, drink it in the car if not. I’m aware, guiltily, of being irritated by her chattiness. Maybe she’s not being kind, putting me at my ease; maybe she’s just like this. So I interrupt and start telling her what happened (“Ooh, slow down,” she says): how I had been running and I don’t know what led me down that path, but something had,
under your skin 21
and how at first I had thought the pale, elongated shape was a swan or a porpoise… She writes down what I say. She asks if I saw anything, or anybody, and I mention the runners, the dog by the pond. No one else, no. “Anything else out of the ordinary?” “Just… the girl.” She is reading back what she has written and I make the decision to ask her about the dotting on the girl’s face. “Little spots,” I say, “the sort of rash you look out for when you have a baby in case it’s meningitis.” “Ah, that one I know,” she says, putting down her notebook. “Petichiae—sign of asphyxiation.” “And she had these marks round her neck—like she had been cut with a cheese wire—but also bruises, abrasions, like fingerprints. Do you think her neck was cut, or she was strangled?” “We’ll have to wait for the pathologist on that one,” she says. “I’m no expert, but finger marks in a case like this often don’t belong to the assailant but the victim. You know, when they’re fighting to get the ligature off?” I shiver involuntarily, and then do it again because it makes me feel better. A grey hoodie is knotted round my waist. I
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unknot it and put it on over my T-shirt. I can feel my shock settling, becoming something more normal, explainable. PC Morrow says, “Can I have your autograph?” and I turn, instinctively smiling, hand obligingly raised, before I realise she just wants me to put my name to my statement. When I look up, DI Perivale is trudging back down the path and I can hear new sirens in the distance, coming up the Wandsworth one-way system, getting louder. Dogs and SOCO, men with cameras and things—what, sticks?—to prod through grass, to find evidence, fibres, paint, glass, to find out who did this. It’s a peculiar feeling, and I don’t know if you’ll understand, but it’s like letting go. It’s no longer my body. It belongs to them now. © SABINE DURRANT, 2013
The acclaimed author of The Playdate brings us a gripping psychological thriller in which one womanâ€™s streak of bad luck may be something far more sinister.
Accidents Happen BY LOUISE MILLAR
began her journalism career
in various music and film magazines and spent seven years at Marie Claire as senior editor and contributing editor. She has written for Mojo, Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, Glamour, and The
Guardian, among others. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.
9781451656701 | TRADE PAPERBACK | 5 5/16 X 8 1 /4 | 400 PAGES | $15.00
Connect with Louise Millar online
an excerpt from
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN CHAPTER ONE
Something had happened.
Something unexpected. He could tell by the maverick puff of grey smoke that hung above the M40 motorway, the kaleidoscope jam of cars glinting under an otherwise blue sky; by the way the drivers craned their necks out of windows to see what was up ahead. Jack kicked his football boots together in the back seat, feeling carsick. “Where are we?” “Nearly there. Oh, will you get out the bloody way! What is wrong with these...?” He glanced up to see his mother glaring in the rear view mirror. Behind them in the slow lane, a lorry jutted up to the back of their car, its engine growling.
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Kate nodded crossly. “He’s right up my back,” she complained, clicking on her indicator, and looking for an empty space in the adjacent lane. Jack rubbed his face, which was still sticky and red from running around the football field. The late-May afternoon hot air that blew in the window was mucky with exhaust pipes as three thick rows of traffic tried in vain to force their way towards Oxford. “I can’t even see his lights now...” A sharp spasm gripped Jack’s stomach. It made the nausea worse. He returned to his computer game. “Mum. Chill out. They probably have sensors or something to tell them when they’re going to hit something.” “Do they?” She waved to a tiny hatchback in the middle lane that was flashing her to move in. “What, even the older ones?” “Hmm?” he replied, pressing a button. “Jack? Even old lorries, like that?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, they don’t WANT to hit you, Mum. They don’t WANT to go to jail.” Without looking up, he knew she was shaking her head again.
“Yeah, well, it’s the one who’s NOT thinking that you’ve got to worry about, Jack. Last year, this British couple got killed by a French lorry doing the same thing—he was texting someone in a traffic jam and ran right over them. He didn’t even know he’d done it, they were so squashed.” “You told me,” Jack said. He flicked the little man back and forwards, trying to get to the next level, trying to take his mind off his stomach. “Oh God—I’m going to be late,” his mother murmured, glancing at the car clock. “What for?” She hesitated. “Just an appointment at six.” “What, the doctor’s?” “No. Work-related.” He glanced at her. Her voice did that thing again, like when she told him the reason she took the train to London last week. It went flat and calm, as if she were forcing it to stay still. There were no ups and downs. And her eyes slid a tiny bit off to the right, as if she were looking at him, but not. A flicker of white caught Jack’s attention in the side mirror. He saw the offending lorry indicate to move in behind
accidents happen 27
their car again. He watched his mother, waiting for her to see it. “Mum...” “What?” He saw her glance behind them angrily. “Oh Jesus—not again... What the...?” Jack banged his boots together, watching dried mud sprinkle onto the newspaper she’d put down in the back. “Mum?” “WHAT?” When his voice came out it was so quiet, he could barely hear it himself over all the straining car engines. “I could have come back in the minibus. You could have picked me up at school like everyone else.” He saw her shoulders tense up. “I wanted to see you play,” she said, the shrillness entering her voice again. “What, am I an embarrassing mum?” “I didn’t say that,” he protested. “Maybe next time I’ll come wearing my pants on my head.” She made a silly face at him in the mirror. He smiled, even though he knew that the silly face wasn’t hers. It was stolen
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property. He’d seen her studying Gabe’s mum when she did it. Gabe’s mum did it a lot, and it made them laugh. When Jack’s mum tried, it was as if the corners of her lips were pulled up by clothes pegs. Then two minutes later, her face went back to the usual frown that suggested she was concentrating hard on something private.
“Next term, Mr. Dixon wants me to play reserve for this team he runs after school.”
“It was nice to see Gabe today,” she said. “Why don’t you ask him round soon?”
She wasn’t listening. In the mirror, he saw her eyes dart wildly back and forward between the blue light, and the lorry now crossing lanes to sit behind them again.
Jack carried on playing his game. After what she’d done to their house this week, he’d never be able to ask anyone around again. “Maybe,” he muttered. “Oh... there’s the problem... Can you see?” He leant over and looked out the passenger side of the car and saw a flashing blue light around the bend to the left. “Police,” he murmured, straining his head forward. “And... a fire engine.” “Really?” She sounded so worried. He sighed quietly and put down his game. “Oh Mum... I’ve got something really good to tell you.” “Uhuh?”
“Does he?” She glanced at him. “That’s brilliant, Jack...” “But I’ll have to train on Wednesdays after school, as well, so perhaps I can go to...”
She sounded bewildered. “What?” “Why don’t you move into the fast lane? Lorries aren’t allowed in there.” And she’d be further away from the burnt-out car that was currently coming into view around the bend on the hard shoulder. His mother stared at him for a second as if in a daze. Finally, she focused again. Then the clothes-peg smile returned. “Good idea, Captain,” she said brightly.
“But we’re fine here. Don’t worry about it, Jack.” He saw her force a smile, causing her eyes to crinkle at the sides, just like Gabe’s mum’s did. Except Gabe’s mum’s eyes were warm and blue, offset by laughter lines and friendly freckles, where as Jack’s mum’s eyes were still, like amber-coloured glass. They sat in skin as white and smooth as Nana’s china, expect for two dark shadows beneath them. He knew his mum’s extra-crinkly smile was supposed to reassure him that there was nothing to worry about. He was only ten-and-three-quarters old, after all. She was the grown-up. She was in charge, and everything was fine. Jack rubbed his stomach, and watched the lorry with a careful eye in the side mirror.
Oh, God. She was so late. She couldn’t miss this appointment. Now the motorway traffic had concertinaed into the city, and jammed that up too. Kate turned off the packed ring road, and sped down Cowley, through the back streets of East Oxford, taking routes the tourists wouldn’t know. Bouncing over speed bumps, she dodged around shoals of cyclists and badly parked rental vans
accidents happen 29
evacuating ramshackle student houses for the summer. Where there was only room for one vehicle down streets so narrow cars parked on the pavement, she forced her way through, waving with a smile at on-coming queues of drivers, ignoring their mouthed insults. “They’re here!” Jack shouted, as she made the last turn in to the welcoming width of Hubert Street. Damn. He was right. Richard’s black 4x4 was parked in its usual gentlemanly way outside her house, leaving the gravelled driveway free for her. A box of pink tissues on the dashboard announced Helen’s presence. Of course they were here. They would have been here at the dot of five. Desperate to get their hands on him. “So they are,” she said, turning into the drive and braking abruptly in front of the side gate. She pulled on the handbrake harder than she meant to. “Right— run. I’m late.” They spilled out of the car, hands full of plastic bags of Jack’s school clothes, the empty wrappers of post-football snacks, and his homework folder for the weekend. “Hi!” Jack called out, waving. Helen was mouthing “hello” from between Kate’s sitting room curtains, her indented two
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front teeth giving her a strangely girlish smile for a woman in her sixties.
placed her arm round Jack, and led him through the hall to the kitchen.
Kate pursed her lips. Why hadn’t they waited in their car? That house-key was for when they were looking after Jack. Not for letting themselves in when she was late. Mentally, she tried to visualize what the house had looked like when she left this morning. What state was the toilet in? Had she tidied away her bras off the radiators?
“Everything OK, Kate?” she called back. “Traffic?”
Then, with the recoil of a trigger, she remembered what was upstairs. Oh no. Her cheeks burned. She looked down at the ground, slammed the car door and locked it. She was supposed to tell them, before they saw it. She needed to explain. She marched after Jack and up to the front porch. “Hello! Have you grown again, young man?” Helen called, flinging open the door. “Not since last week, I don’t think, Helen,” Kate exclaimed from behind them. Why did she say these things? They all knew he was small. Pretending he wasn’t was doing Jack no favours. “Gosh, you’re going to be tall like your dad,” Helen laughed, ignoring her. She
“Yup. Sorry.” Kate gritted her teeth as she closed the door behind her. “Let me take those.” She turned to see Richard striding towards her, his hands outstretched, oblivious to her chagrin that he had just let himself into his daughter-in-law’s house. His imposing frame filled the hallway. “How did you get on? Traffic?” “Yes, sorry,” she said, giving him Jack’s homework. She could smell Richard’s usual fragrance of pipe smoke and TCP. Kate looked up into Richard’s serious and questioning brown eyes, waiting for them to check that Jack was out of earshot. But they didn’t. Instead he turned on his heels and followed after Helen and Jack into the kitchen, grinning through his grey-flecked beard at the sight of his grandson. “So did you beat their socks off, sir?” he boomed at Jack, who was stuffing a muffin in his mouth. Kate glanced up the stairs. It was still there. Richard hadn’t seen it.
She checked her watch. Five-twenty. The woman wanted to see her at six sharp in North Oxford. The traffic was so bad, she was going to have to cycle. Kate quickly worked out a few figures. Thirty-four… Eighty-one—or was it eighty-two? Damn it, she needed that new computer. The chances were high, anyway. She shook her head. It would have to be OK. She followed Richard through to the kitchen, opened a cupboard and bent down to find her helmet. “Helen, do you mind if I rush off?” “Of course, dear,” Helen chirped, filling up a jug at the sink. “Sound interesting?” “Um—just a woman who might have some renovation work,” Kate said, avoiding Helen’s eye. “Where?” “In Summertown.” “Oh well, good luck, dear.” “Thanks.” Kate turned to see Jack, his mouth still too full of muffin to answer his grandfather’s question about the match score this afternoon. He was grinning and sticking up two fingers like Winston Churchill.
accidents happen 31
“Peace, man?” asked Richard. “It’s the 1960s, is it? No! Two-all, then? No? What? A bunny rabbit jumped on to the pitch?” Richard chortled, his arms wrapped round his rugby player’s chest, as his grandson shook his head at his jokes. “What? Two-nil then?” Jack nodded, laughing, crumbs out of his mouth.
“Aw—well done!” Helen clapped, cheeks as pink as fairycakes. “Good lad!” Richard exclaimed. “Was he good, Mum?” Kate grabbed her helmet from the back of the cupboard and went to stand up. “He was. He set up a good goal, didn’t you?” As she span round, the sight of Helen and Jack together took her by surprise. A pit of disappointment settled in her stomach. Jack was a clone of her. You couldn’t deny it. Kate buckled up her helmet, watching them. However desperately she willed his hair to darken and thicken like Hugo’s, or for his green eyes to turn brown, it was Helen and Saskia who Jack took after. As he sat beside his grandmother, the similarities were painfully obvious. The same pale hair, that was
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slightly too fine for the long skater-boy cut he desperately wanted; delicate features that would remain immune to the nasal bumps and widening jaws that would wipe out his friends’ childhood beauty; the flawless skin that tanned so easily and would remain unmarked by Kate’s dark moles or Richard and Hugo’s unruly eyebrows. He was nearly eleven and nothing was going to change now. Jack would be a physically uncomplicated adult, like his grandmother and aunt, with none of the familiar landmarks of his father. Kate stood up straight and made herself stop thinking. She walked to the fridge and opened it. “Oh, by the way, Helen, I’ve made this for tonight,” she said, pulling out a casserole dish and lifting the lid. “It’s just vegetables and lentils. And some potatoes…” Kate stopped. She stared at the stew. It was an inch or two shallower in the dish than she’d left it this morning. “Jack, did you eat some of this this morning?” Kate asked, looking around alarmed. He shook his head. The kitchen window locks and the back door were all intact. She spun round to check the window at the side return—
and came face to face with Helen, who had come up behind her.
bloody salmon. Jack didn’t even like it. He only ate it to be polite.
“Now, you’re probably starving, darling, aren’t you?” Helen said to Jack, taking Kate’s apron off a peg to put on. There was a fragment of tinned tomato on it left over from making the stew this morning, Kate noted, that was about to press against Helen’s white summer cardigan. She started to speak, and then didn’t.
Helen shot Kate a smile and took the casserole gently from her, replacing it in the fridge. “Now, don’t worry about us, Kate. We stopped at Marks on the way over. I got some salmon and new potatoes, and a bit of salad.” Kate saw the salmon sitting in her fridge on the shelf above the casserole, and felt the waves of Helen’s firm resolve radiate towards her. “Oh. But I made it for tonight. Really. There’s probably enough for the three of you if you have it with some bread. I’m just confused at how so much of it has disappeared. It’s as if…”
“OK, then...” Kate hesitated, glancing at the clock. “By the way...” They both looked at her. Jack looked down at the table.
“Oh, it’ll have just sunk down in the dish when it was cooling,” Helen interrupted firmly, shooting a reassuring smile to Jack. “No, Kate. You keep it for tomorrow.”
Kate looked at Jack. He slowly chewed his muffin.
Kate stared into the fridge. Was Helen right? She tried to see if she could see a faint line of dried casserole that would prove its original height. There was nothing there. “OK,” she heard herself say lamely. She shut the fridge. They could eat their
“I’ve... have you been up...?” She pointed at the ceiling. They shook their heads. “No, dear,” Helen replied. “Why?”
“Well, I haven’t got time to explain, but anyway, don’t worry about it. It’s just...” They waited, expectantly. She realized Jack’s jaws had stopped moving. “I needed to do it. And it’s done now. So—see you later.” And with that, she marched out the door of her house—HER house—cross that she had to explain it all. © LOUISE MILLAR, 2013
accidents happen 33
The first novel in a groundbreaking international crime trilogy about a deadly game that blurs the line between reality and fiction in a world obsessed with social media.
BY ANDERS DE LA MOTTE
Anders de la Motte
made his debut in 2010
with Game, which won the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ First Book Award. He is a former Military Policeman and Stockholm Police Officer. Since 2001 he has held several security management positions, the most recent one as a Director of Security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. He is currently a full
time writer, although serving a few select clients as an international security consultant. 9781476712888 | TRADE PAPERBACK | 5 5/ 16 X 8 1 /4 | 368 PAGES | $15.00
Connect with Anders de la Motte online
an excerpt from
GAME CHAPTER ONE
Wanna play a game? The text flashed up on the screen for the umpteenth time, and for the umpteenth time HP clicked it away in irritation. No, he didn’t want to play any bloody game, all he wanted to do was figure out how the mobile phone in his hand worked, and whether it was possible to do anything as simple as make a phone-call with it? The commuter train from Märsta, early July, heading towards the city. Almost thirty degrees, his top sticking to his back, his mouth already dry. Predictably, he was out of fags, and the only consolation was the breeze generated by the speed of the train, forcing its way through the pathetic little ventilation window above his head.
He sniffed his t-shirt a couple of times, then checked his breath. The results were pretty much as expected. An away match, hangover, and the smell of something rotting in his mouth. Yeehaa! An almost perfect Sunday morning, if it weren’t for the fact that it was actually Thursday morning and he should have been at work two hours ago. So much for that period of probation. But so what?! It was only a crap McJob anyway, a bunch of arseholes with a fully paid-up wanker in charge. It’s important to be one of the team, Pettersson. Yeah, right! Like he was going to hum Kumbayah and play team-building games with a load of losers. The only reason he was there was so he could make a new claim for unemployment benefit afterwards. Suck my ass, mofos! He had noticed it shortly after the train left Rosersberg. A small, silver-coloured object on the seat on the other side of the aisle. Someone had been sitting there a minute ago, but had got off and the train was already moving again. So there was no point waving and shouting about it now, if he was seriously considering Doing The Right Thing. As if…!
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Anyway, everyone had a responsibility to look after their own damn stuff, didn’t they? So he glanced quickly around instead, looking for security cameras with a practiced eye and, once he’d concluded that the carriage was too old to have any, he changed seats so he could examine his find at leisure. A mobile phone, just as he had thought, and his morning suddenly got a bit better. One of those ones with a touch-screen on the front instead of an old-fashioned keypad. Sweet! It was odd, but he couldn’t find the manufacturer’s name anywhere, but maybe the phone was so exclusive that there was no need for one? Unless the engraved lettering on the back was actually a brand-name? 128, it said in light-grey lettering slightly less than a centimetre high. He couldn’t remember ever hearing of a phone company with that name. But what the hell… It must be worth five hundred kronor or so from the Greek who dealt in stolen mobiles. The alternative was spending
a couple of hundred disabling the IMEI code so the owner wouldn’t be able to stop the thing working, then he could keep it for himself. But that was hardly an option… Last night had blown a definitive hole in his already overstretched finances. He’d had nothing in his account for ages, and he’d already used up all his other lifelines. But with a bit of hustling here and there he’d soon be back on his feet… You could never keep someone like him down for long, the mobile was living proof of that. He held the phone up to examine it more closely. It was small and neat, hardly bigger than the palm of his hand, and the shell was made of brushed steel. A small hole in the back indicated that it was equipped with a camera, and at the top was a clumsy black clip, presumably so you could fasten it to your clothes. The clip was in marked contrast to the otherwise minimalist design, and he was about to see if he couldn’t take it off when the screen suddenly came to life.
Wanna play a game? it asked, showing two icons for Yes and No. HP started in surprise. In his comatose, hungover state he hadn’t even checked
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if the phone was switched on. Careless! He touched his finger to the No icon, then tried to work out how to get the menu to appear. If he was lucky, he’d be able to use the phone for a few days until the owner managed to block it. But instead of a normal start menu, the phone just kept repeating the question, and now, as with growing irritation he clicked it away, goodness knew how many times later, he was on the verge of giving up. Fucking shit phone! He swallowed a couple of times in an attempt to stop himself throwing up. Fucking hangover, he ought to know better than to mix his drinks, and he was so desperate for a cigarette that he felt like he was going to explode. And as for that girl, Christ, she was a dog, but what could you expect if you went out on the pull in the burbs? He’d made up some excuse about a hockey match he’d promised a friend he’d show up for, and had made a quick exit when the morning sunlight mercilessly revealed the shortcomings of the previous evening’s catch. To judge by the bitch’s feeble protestations, the feeling had been pretty mutual. Run, Forrest, run!
But he wasn’t really in any hurry to get back to Maria Trappgränd. A stop to see the Greek, some easy money that ought be enough for a hangover pizza and then a few beers at Kvarnen.
riage, and apart from a mother with two hyperactive kids almost all of them seemed to be in the same sluggish morning coma as him. Not one of them so much as glanced in his direction.
There was always space for that in the diary.
He checked the screen again. The same text. How the hell could the phone know his name?
If he was lucky, there’d be enough left over for a bit of weed, because the mobile was no bog-standard design like the ones he sometimes happened to chance upon. Five hundred to a thousand kronor pure profit, all in all not a bad day, in spite of the hangover and the tropical heat. The screen flashed again and his finger had almost gone automatically to the No icon before he noticed that this message was different.
Wanna play a game,
Henrik Pettersson? Yes No HP stiffened in his seat. What the fuck…? He glanced around quickly a few times. Was someone messing with him? There were maybe ten, twelve other passengers spread out around the car-
He looked around, but was left none the wiser. Then he clicked the button for No. A new message flashed up immediately, this time in Swedish.
Are you really sure you don’t want to play a Game, HP? He almost flew out of his seat. What in the name of holy fuck was going on here? He shut his eyes tight, took a couple of deep breaths, and regained control of his galloping hangover anxiety. Just keep calm, he thought. You’re a smart lad. And this isn’t the fucking twilight zone. Either this is Candid Camera or else one of your mates is mucking about with you. Probably the latter… Mange was top of the list of suspects. An old friend from school, good with technical stuff, owned a computer shop,
got furious about anyone taking the piss about his new-found Arab god, and he had a really sick sense of humour. Yep, no doubt about it. This was one of Mange’s sick jokes! Relief spread through his body. So, Mangelito. It had been ages, he had actually thought that getting married and his new religion had turned Mange soft, but the little bastard must have been biding his time for this masterstroke. Now he just had to work out how it all fitted together, and then find a way to turn the joke back on Mange. It was bloody well thought out so far, he had to give the little floor-kisser credit for that. HP looked around once again. Nine people in total in the carriage, twelve if he counted the young kids. Three teenage girls, an alcoholic, two stereotypical Swedish blokes about the same age as him, somewhere round thirty. An old boy with a stick, a pretty decent girl of twenty-five or so with a ponytail and wearing running gear (it must have been the hangover that stopped him noticing her earlier), and finally the woman with the kids.
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Whichever one of them Mange the Muslim had managed to recruit, they had to have some sort of electronic gizmo to be able to send the messages. Sadly, that didn’t exactly make the list much shorter. Five of them were clicking on some sort of electronic gadget, and, if you counted the earplugs the alcoholic was wearing, at a push you could stretch the list of suspects to six. His weary brain came to the conclusion that it was more the rule than the exception to mess about with a mobile on the train, not just to send texts but to kill a few minutes with one of those stupid mobile phone games. So, Einstein—not really much wiser! His head was throbbing from the unexpected exertion, and his mouth was still bone-dry. Strangely enough, though, he did feel slightly more alert. So what happened now? How was he going to get his own back? He decided to go along with the prank for a while, so first he pressed the No icon, then, when the question was repeated, the icon for Yes. Oh yes, he’d play along with it for a while and pretend to be taken in, and the more he thought about it, the more he realised that this was actually pretty
cool. A good way of passing time on a boring train journey.
safely inside the thick walls of the government building.
“Fucking Mange,” he grinned, before a new message appeared on the screen.
Rebecca had time for a quick coffee in the canteen and then a trip to the toilet before returning to her driver to check they were ready for the next move.
Welcome to the Game HP! Thanks! he thought, leaning back. This was actually going to be interesting.
Even before the wheels of the heavy vehicle had stopped Rebecca Normén was out on the pavement. The heat that hit her was so intense that she wanted to get back into the cool of the car at once. Three weeks of high summer in Sweden had made the streets so hot that the tarmac had started to stick to your shoes, and the bulletproof vest she was wearing under her shirt and jacket was hardly making things any better. After quickly surveying the scene and deciding there was no danger, she opened the door and let out her charge, who had been waiting obediently in the backseat. The guard on the door of the main government offices at Rosenbad was for once awake enough to open the door immediately, and a few moments later Sweden’s Minister for Integration was
She looked at the time. Fourteen more minutes to wait, then a short walk along the quayside to the Foreign Ministry for a meeting with the minister who, unlike her own charge, had a full team of bodyguards. At least two, usually more. A whole team, the way it should be. Personal protection coordinator was her job title, presumably because “oneman bodyguard unit” didn’t sound particularly reassuring. The Minister for Integration was deemed a suitably demanding job for someone with less than a year’s experience as a bodyguard, at least in the opinion of her boss. Medium to low threat level, according to the latest analysis. Besides, and this may have been more significant, none of her older colleagues wanted the job of personal protection coordinator… As she emerged from the main entrance she caught her driver quickly tossing his cigarette in the gutter next to the car. Unprofessional, she thought with irritation, but what else did she expect? Unlike her, he wasn’t a proper body-
guard but a less skilled version intended to save the state money. A chauffeur with a bit of extra training and a badly fitting bulletproof vest, employed by the transport unit of the Cabinet Office rather than the Security Police. Twenty years older than her and with obvious problems taking orders from someone younger, let alone a woman.
much effort to hide his irritation.
“Ten minutes,” she said curtly. “Stay here with the car until we get there.”
Offering you their services, whether or not they happened to be married… And if you were stupid enough to complain to your own boss you were soon out in the cold. She’d seen plenty of examples of that.
“Wouldn’t it be better if I drove to the Foreign Ministry now? It’s usually a hell of a job finding anywhere to park there.” His objection was predictable. The driver, Bengt, his name was, had decided on principle to have some sort of opinion about everything she said. There was a hint of “listen, young lady…” in every sentence he uttered. As if age and gender automatically made him an expert at protecting people. Clearly his one week of training hadn’t taught him that backwards was safe, but that forwards was unknown territory and therefore higher risk. Idiot! “You’ll wait here until I tell you to drive over!” she snapped, without bothering to explain her decision. “Any questions?” “No, boss,” he replied, without making
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Why on earth was it so hard to get certain types of men to accept a woman as their boss? Either they tried to get the better of you and take control, like Bengt here, or worse, made insinuations and comments about your sex life, or lack of one.
She never dated colleagues out of principle. Mixing your work and private life soon got way too complicated. Put simply: don’t shit on your own doorstep. The fact was that she never actually dated anyone. Maybe dating itself was too complicated? She shrugged to shake off the unwelcome thought. Right now her job was her priority.
by the waters of Norrström. Two of them holding fishing rods, and the third dressed in fishing gear too, even if she couldn’t see a fishing rod. None of them had seemed to pose any great threat. But when Rebecca and her charge, along with the minister’s constantly chattering assistant, approached the place where the three men were standing, she noticed a change in their body language. She automatically slid her right hand inside her jacket, putting her thumb on the barrel of her pistol, and her fingers on the telescopic baton and police radio attached to her belt. She just had time to put a warning hand on her charge’s right shoulder when it happened. Two of the men spun round and took a couple of quick steps towards them. One of them unfolded some sort of poster that he held in front of him, while the second raised his hand to throw something.
Everything else could wait.
“Sweden protects killers! Sweden protects killers!” the men screamed as they rushed towards the minister.
No sooner had they gone round the corner of the government offices than she realised something was wrong. A minute ago, when she had checked out their route in advance, there had been three people leaning over the railing
Rebecca reacted instantly. She pressed the alarm button on her radio and in one sweeping gesture she pulled the baton out of her belt, extended it to its full length, and brought it down through the middle of the intrusive poster. She
felt the baton hit something hard and saw the attackers take a step back, momentarily off balance. “Back to the car,” she shouted at the Minister for Integration, as she pulled the woman behind her back. With the baton raised over her shoulder she backed away quickly toward the car, her hand still gripping the minister’s upper arm.
“Victor five, we’re under attack, repeat, we’re under attack, get the car ready!” she yelled into the little microphone in her collar: it had started transmitting automatically when she pressed the alarm. It would be at least three minutes until reinforcements arrived, probably nearer five, she calculated rapidly. She could only hope that Bengt hadn’t dozed off behind the wheel so they could make a quick getaway. Just as they got back to the corner of the building again their attackers made a new attempt to reach Rebecca and her charge. Something came flying through the air and she hit out at it automatically with her baton. “Rock,
managed to think before tepid liquid rained down on her face and upper body. “Dear God, please don’t let it be petrol!”
been cut off? They didn’t teach you that on the bodyguard course. Improvisation had never exactly been her strong point. She was close to panic.
Finally, they were round the corner again and she looked quickly behind her for Bengt, hoping that he remembered enough of his minimal training to have opened the car doors for them.
“Over here!” she heard a voice shout.
But the turning circle where the car had been parked was empty. “Fuck!” she hissed, but was drowned out by the assistant’s screams. “Blood!” he cried, almost in falsetto.
“Christ, I’m bleeding!”
The guard had opened the door wide and had taken up a position halfway between it and her. He’d drawn his baton and was staring at the corner where their attackers ought to have appeared by now. With a couple of quick strides Rebecca half-pulled and half-shoved the Minister for Integration through the door that they had left just a few minutes before. She could still hear the assistant’s hysterical sobbing behind her, but paid him no attention, concentrating on getting her charge to safety.
Rebecca twisted her head again and suddenly realised she was having trouble seeing. A red fog was descending over her eyes and she rubbed the hand holding the baton across her nose.
It wasn’t until several minutes later, after reinforcements had arrived and the situation had calmed down, that she realised that the whole of her upper body was covered in blood.
No car, no Bengt, and their attackers right behind them. What to do?
© ANDERS DE LA MOTTE, 2013
“Make a decision, Normén, make a decision now!” her brain shrieked at her. Backwards known and secure, forwards unknown and dangerous. But what to do if your escape route had suddenly
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In Brad Thor’s next pulse-pounding Scot Harvath thriller, the stakes have never been higher, nor the lines between good and evil so hard to discern.
Hidden Order BRAD THOR
Brad Thor is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Order, Black List, Full Black, The Athena Project, Foreign Influence, The Apostle, The Last Patriot, The First Commandment, Takedown, Blowback (recognized by NPR as one of the “100 Best Thrillers of All Time”), State of the Union, Path of the Assassin,
and The Lions of Lucerne. Visit his website at BradThor.com
9781476717098 | HARDCOVER | 6 1/8 X 9 1/4 | 384 PAGES | $27.99
Connect with Brad Thor online
an excerpt from
HIDDEN ORDER PROLOGUE
Sea Island, Georgia Claire Marcourt should have gone to bed hours ago. She should have ignored the second bottle of white Burgundy in the fridge, placed her empty wineglass in the sink, and headed upstairs. But the forty-five-year-old was feeling nostalgic. And the more she drank, the more nostalgic she became. Picking up the bottle, she stepped outside. The night was balmy and the ocean air carried with it the scent of magnolias. Just beyond her pool, foamy waves tumbled onto the quiet beach. Her pool. It was hard for Claire Marcourt to believe how far one family could come in a generation. Her mother had
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cleaned houses on Sea Island. Now, Claire owned one and was being considered for one of the most powerful positions in the world. Only in America, she thought to herself. It was heartbreaking that her mother hadn’t lived to see everything Claire had accomplished—her career, her handsome husband and their three beautiful children, the Sea Island house with its stately oaks covered in Spanish moss, all of it. She would have been so proud. As it was, she hadn’t even seen Claire graduate from college. Cancer had taken her and in its wake had left Claire with a growing fear that she too might someday prematurely be taken from her family. Pouring another glass of wine, Claire set the bottle on the outdoor table and walked to the edge of the patio. She was becoming maudlin. Focusing on the ocean, she took a long sip of wine and closed her eyes. As the waves rolled onto the beach, she reflected on what a treat it was to come here and escape the sirens and traffic of Manhattan. The family didn’t get down to Sea Island often enough these days. Everyone was so busy. The funny thing, though, was that once she was able to get Paul and the kids here, no one wanted to leave. She couldn’t blame them. It was a source
of not only strength but revival for them. It was the one place where they all felt truly at home, truly safe. Listening to the waves, she was reminded of a poem about the area by Sidney Lanier called “The Marshes of Glynn.” Take courage from the land which God has given you, which has always nourished you, and which is still there, and be comforted. Claire smiled and opened her eyes; her budding melancholy swept out to sea on a receding wave. She needed to think about that poem, and this place, more often. Work had all but consumed her, and it wasn’t going to get any easier if things went in the direction she thought they were about to. Draining the last of the wine from her glass, she stood there admiring the power of the ocean, lost in her own thoughts. She never noticed the figure that stepped out of the darkness and onto her patio. He was tall and powerful. He moved quickly, clamping a gloved hand over her mouth. Before she knew what was happening, she felt a prick, almost like being stung, and her body went limp. She not only couldn’t move a muscle, she couldn’t make a sound.
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The man removed his hand from her mouth, bent down, and slung her over his shoulder like a fireman.
Laying her down inside, the man pulled the bow around and dragged the boat into the water.
She could feel her heart pounding in her chest.
Claire could sense the very moment the Zodiac was floating and was no longer touching the sand. She felt a wave of nausea and wanted to throw up, but her body didn’t comply. It was as if it wasn’t even her body anymore. It was like she was in a coma, but no one knew she was actually awake.
What is going on? she screamed in the silence of her mind. Why me? What does he want? Where is he taking me? It didn’t take long for her last question to be answered. Staring down past the man’s dark trousers and thick black boots, she could see the flagstone path turn to sand. He was taking her to the beach. Why the beach? Does he need someplace where he can do whatever he’s going to do to me alone? A couple of hundred yards away, Claire began to see the outline of something else, and her heart began to pound even faster. Pulled up onto the beach was an inflatable gray Zodiac. Claire was deathly afraid of open water, particularly the open ocean. It was one thing to have a house on the coast with a view of the ocean; it was something entirely different to choose to be out on the open water. But Claire had no choice in what was about to happen.
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As her attacker climbed into the boat and started its engine, Claire’s fear of the open ocean was replaced by another fear, or more properly stated a resignation—whoever this man was and whatever his intent, Claire was never going to see her family again.
phone and dialed a string of digits.
When the call was answered, he identified himself.
Ryan shut down the tablet and cautiously glanced around the sleek chrome-and-leather-accented room. She didn’t see anyone looking back at her. “What gentleman?”
“Hotel Sierra?” a man’s voice asked on the other end. They spoke in code, using the military alphabet. Hotel represented the letter H, which in this communication stood for hostage. Sierra stood for S, secure. “Affirmative. Hotel Sierra.” “ID Lima.” Identify location. “Lima three,” the man in the Zodiac replied, indicating he had arrived at the creek. “Roger. Lima three,” the voice replied. “Charlie Mike.” Continue mission.
Seven miles south, the Zodiac entered St. Simons Sound and continued on. At the tip of a narrow point of wooded land was the entrance to a small, winding creek. The man killed the main engine and switched to a smaller, quieter motor. There were to be no witnesses.
“Roger. Charlie Mike.”
His assignment was almost complete. By the time anyone realized Claire Marcourt was missing, everything would already be in motion and there’d be nothing anyone could do.
Lufthansa First-Class Lounge Frankfurt Airport, Germany
He glanced down at the woman as he removed a weatherized Iridium satellite
With those words, Claire Marcourt’s fate was sealed and the rest of the operation was officially set in motion.
Lydia Ryan looked up from her tablet as a waiter set a drink in front of her. “I didn’t order this,” she said. “No ma’am,” replied the waiter. “It is from
As the waiter smiled, a man sitting in the area behind her said, “This gentleman.” Lydia recognized the voice immediately. “May I join you?” he asked as she turned around to face him. Before she could respond, the man had already stood, his own drink in hand, and was walking over to her. While paths did sometimes cross in the intelligence world, Ryan knew better than to believe in coincidences. The fact that she and Nafi’ Nasiri, deputy chief of the Jordanian Intelligence Service, were in the same airport lounge was no accident. He was in his midthirties, tall, with medium-length black hair and refined, handsome features. He came from a wealthy family related to the king and had been educated in England and the United States. He had a penchant for dark Italian suits and his shoes were always highly polished. On his left wrist he wore the same elegant Patek Philippe watch that Ryan remembered.
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“It’s good to see you again, Lydia,” he said as he set his briefcase down and took the seat facing her. “It’s been a long time, Nafi’.” “Even so, you haven’t changed at all. You’re still as beautiful as you were in Basra.” Still the Lothario, she thought to herself as she smiled and shook her head. “How’s the shoulder?” she asked, beating him to the punch. Reaching across his body, he massaged his right shoulder. “I find the changes in barometric pressure difficult, particularly before it rains.” Five years ago, Nasiri had knocked her to the ground as a suicide bomber was about to detonate. He had taken shrapnel in his upper arm and had used the injury ever since as an attempt to guilt her into sleeping with him. “That’s too bad. I guess it’s a good thing you live in the desert.” Nasiri smiled. He had worked with a lot of female intelligence agents over the years and had been able to break all of them down—all of them except for Ryan. She was like no woman he had ever met. The stunning product of a Greek mother and Irish father, she was tall—at least five feet ten inches—with a mane of thick dark hair framing an aristocrat-
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ic face punctuated by two large, deep green eyes. The fact that she had never said yes to him made him want her all the more. She was also highly adept as a field operative. Despite being only in her late twenties, she had proven herself on multiple occasions to be just as courageous, just as skilled, and just as deadly as her male counterparts. With everything else he had seen in her, he could only imagine how exceptional she would be in bed. Ryan could see him drinking her in with his eyes and decided to cut to the chase. “What are the odds that you and I would both be passing through Frankfurt?” Nasiri smiled and nodded his head. “I needed to see you.” “So this isn’t fate then,” she replied, pursing her lips in a disappointed pout.
“There’s already food in the room.” Ryan had no idea what this was about, but he had definitely piqued her curiosity. “Well, seeing as how you’ve gone to so much trouble, how could a lady say no?” Gathering up their belongings, the pair made their way toward the conference room. Once inside, Nasiri closed the drapes as Ryan perused the assortment of appetizers that had been laid out. She prepared a plate of food and, after looking at the available beverages, poured herself a glass of mineral water. Wine was out of the question. She liked Nasiri, but she wasn’t going to let her guard down around him. On the flight back home she could have a couple of glasses of wine if she wanted. Right now, this was business. Ryan had just taken a bite of smoked duck when Nasiri sat down across from her and asked, “Are we next?”
“Unfortunately, no.” His buoyant, causal demeanor was gone. His tone was more professional, almost urgent. “May we speak someplace more discreet?” he continued. “I’ve reserved one of the private conference rooms for us.”
She had no idea what he was talking about. Swallowing her food, she said, “Excuse me?”
“What’s going on, Nafi’?”
“I don’t understand. Next for what?”
“Please,” he said, standing.
“C’mon, Lydia,” Nasiri replied.
“I was going to get something to eat before my flight.”
“Is Jordan next?”
“We know each other well enough and we’ve seen some very bad things together; we shouldn’t play games.” “Nafi’, no one is playing games here. You need to be specific with me. What are you talking about?” Reaching down, Nasiri removed a folder from his briefcase and slid it across the conference table. “These pictures were taken three days ago.” Now he had really piqued her interest. Moving her plate aside, she drew the folder in and flipped it open. The exhalation of breath that escaped her lips as well the word “Shit” upon seeing the first of the photos was both unintentional and unprofessional. “I guess we don’t need to argue whether or not you know some of the people in those photos.” Ryan shook her head. “Where were these taken?” “Cyprus.” “And you said three days ago?”
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“Yes,” replied Nasiri. “The only person missing is you.” “I have nothing to do with that anymore.” “But that’s your team, is it not?” he asked. “That was my team. All of them were let go. You know that.” “Do I? I’m not so sure. The CIA kept you, didn’t it?” “That’s different,” Ryan argued. He leaned back in his chair, unconvinced. “Really? Different how?”
supposed to mean?” “It means, my dear Lydia, that even by your own admission your destabilization team was very skilled. Yet despite their skill, someone chose to shut it down and fire all the members. All the members, that is, except for you. If I recall correctly, you got promoted. Case officer now, isn’t it?” Glancing at her watch, Ryan said, “If there’s a point to all of this, Nafi’, I suggest you get to it.”
“I was assigned to police that team. They were good, but they were also a bunch of cowboys. You don’t last long at Langley if you don’t follow the rules.”
“The point is that your entire CIA destabilization team, minus your ‘policing’ presence, was seen in Cyprus three days ago meeting with two men that my country is very concerned about.”
“Interesting. I seem to remember you breaking a lot of rules yourself.”
“These two?” she asked, pointing at one of the photographs. “Who are they?”
“No,” Ryan admonished him, “what you remember is an imbecile of a CIA station chief and an American ambassador with a Pollyanna-ish worldview. Everything we did, everything, there was clearance for, especially the things we kept quiet from those two. It’s hard enough doing the work you and I do without having to fight our own people in the process.”
“Senior members of Muslim Brotherhood.”
Nasiri shrugged. “I will have to take your word for that.” She looked at him. “What the hell is that
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Suddenly, it hit her. “Wait a second. You think that we. . . ? That the United States. . . ?” Nasiri raised his hands, palms up, and tilted his head to the side. “If you were in our position, what would you think?” “I think a country like Jordan should be confident enough to trust its allies. That’s what I think.”
The Jordanian leaned forward. “Are we next?” “There could be any number of reasons for that meeting in Cyprus.” “Really?” he asked, reaching down and removing two more folders from his briefcase, which he held out over the table and dropped. “Would those be the same reasons or different ones for your team being seen in both Egypt and Libya before those governments were collapsed?” She wanted to stress again that it wasn’t “her team” but she was too stunned to utter the words. Every American in those photos had not only been let go from the CIA but let go with prejudice and big black marks in their records. Was that all just smoke? Lydia Ryan was quite good at reading people, so whatever intelligence Nafi’ Nasiri had, she could see he was 100 percent confident in it. Which meant, by extension so was his boss, and very likely the king of Jordan himself. He wouldn’t have been sent here to meet with her like this otherwise. “I don’t know what to say,” she finally stated. The Jordanian pushed the folders across the table to her. “Tell me you’ll read what’s in those files.”
“Of course, but—” “And that you’ll get me some answers.” “Nafi’, I can’t make any promises.” Nasiri looked at her, his face implacable. Reaching down, he removed a final folder from his briefcase, but he didn’t open it, nor did he push it across the table. He sat there tapping his index finger on the cover. “I am sorry to have to do this.” “Sorry to have to do what?” “Understand that we take any threat to the survival of the Kingdom of Jordan very seriously.”
There was now another tone in his voice, and she didn’t like it. “What’s in that folder, Nafi’?” The Jordanian lifted the cover, but only high enough so that he could see inside. From where she was sitting, Ryan couldn’t make out a thing. “Over the winter, we got one of our people into a terror cell that has been moving bomb makers, bomb materials, and martyrs into Syria via Lebanon.
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While inside the group, our asset learned of a plot targeting the United States.” Ryan’s eyes went wide. “You’ve known of an attack being mounted against the United States and this is the first you are telling us? Hand me that file. I want to see what’s in it.” Nasiri shook his head. “We have been monitoring the situation.” “Monitoring the situation, my ass,” said Ryan, her anger growing. “You know what, Nafi’? Fuck you and fuck your monitoring. You can’t sit on information like that.” “We didn’t want to come to you until we were confident.” “This is blackmail. The Kingdom of Jordan is blackmailing the United States. Is that what’s going on here? You’re not going to give me what I want until you get what you want.” The Jordanian picked up the file, slid it back into his briefcase, and stood. Ryan’s blood was boiling. She knew her emotions were getting the better of her and that was wrong, but she couldn’t control her anger. “You haven’t given me a shred of proof. What makes you think my superiors will even believe you?” Nasiri smiled as he reached the conference room door. “I think a country like
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America should be confident enough to trust its allies. That’s what I think. Have a good flight home, Lydia.” With that, the Jordanian was gone, and in his wake the CIA had been left a nightmare—a terrorist plot that might or might not exist and no way to even begin running it to ground.
CHAPTER 2 Somali Coast Everyone told Scot Harvath that his plan would never work. Parachuting onto the aft deck of any supertanker, much less the Sienna Star, was beyond insane. It was a kamikaze mission. Nevertheless, Harvath tracked down three high-end operators who agreed to do it with him. They not only landed on the ship, they took out the pirates on board and freed all of the captured crew. All, that is, except for the captain, who had been moved to the pirates’ stronghold onshore as an insurance policy. This put Harvath in a very difficult position. His assignment called for the successful recapture of the ship and recovery of the entire crew. Because of the way Harvath’s boss had structured the deal, the ship’s owners owed them nothing unless the operation was 100 percent successful.
The Old Man, as Harvath referred to his boss, had put everything on the line for this operation, advancing a small fortune that included funding a secondary team out in the Gulf of Aden to conduct drone reconnaissance on the Sienna Star for the last week and a half. At this point, Harvath wondered if the drone hadn’t been a waste of both time and money. It had completely missed the pirates smuggling the captain off the tanker. As a SEAL now working in the private intelligence world, Harvath had always lived for this kind of adventure. What he didn’t like, though, was that since they’d lost their Defense Department contract, the Old Man had been accepting riskier and riskier operations in order to make ends meet. Now, with no advance work and practically no backup, he was going to attempt to infiltrate a Somali pirate village and extricate a kidnapped shipping captain. The whole thing made his plan of parachuting onto the rear of the Sienna Star look like a trip to the dry cleaner. He hoped like hell that the last thing the pirates would ever expect was someone sailing straight into their own village. If not, he was in for a very bad night. The success of his plan rested on the man the pirates had put in charge of pi-
loting the Sienna Star, a young Kenyan engineer named Mukami. As the Somali hijackers were little more than amphibious thugs, they relied on importing talent who could keep the tankers moving up and down the coast until their ransom demands were met. Because Mukami was technically not one of the pirates himself, Harvath had instructed his team to spare him. It turned out to be a smart move. Not only had the Kenyan been helpful aboard the Sienna Star, but he knew the pirates’ village and assisted Harvath in drawing up a rescue plan. He even offered to take him straight to where the captain was being held if, of course, Harvath was willing to pay him. Sweetening the pot, the Kenyan put forth an excellent plan to turn the tables on the pirates. He suggested hijacking their supply boat when it came out to resupply the tanker with food, water, and fresh khat. With it, Harvath could sail right into the harbor with no one being the wiser. There was, though, one additional condition. On top of getting paid and help to return to Kenya, Mukami asked that his cousin Pili, the alternate engineer who was coming out on the resupply boat to relieve him, not be harmed. Harvath agreed.
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When the boat pulled up alongside the tanker, the team of four Americans easily took it. After dumping the dead resupply pirates into the shark-infested water, Harvath left two men behind to hold the Sienna Star and chose his remaining teammate—a former SEAL named Matt Sanchez—for the operation to rescue the captain. Before they had even pulled away from the tanker, the churning water around the resupply boat ran red with blood as great whites ripped the pirate corpses to shreds. The shooting of the pirates had taken Mukami’s cousin Pili completely by surprise. Two of them had been sitting so close to him, he had felt the bullets pass right by his face. He had simply thought he was coming out to the tanker to relieve his cousin for a couple of days. Because of Pili’s state of quasi-shock, Mukami chose to pilot the resupply boat into port. As Harvath and Sanchez checked and cleaned their weapons, they went over the plan with Mukami once more. They would berth at the northern end of the small harbor where the resupply boats normally picked up and dropped off. The car Pili and Mukami shared was already there waiting. While Pili stayed with the boat, Mukami would drive Harvath and Sanchez slowly past the
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house the pirates owned in order to give them a quick look at what they were up against. He would then drop them off around the corner and continue on to the house himself. It wasn’t unusual for the Kenyan engineer, upon arriving back in port, to show up at the walled compound to be paid before proceeding on to his hotel. Usually, the pirates invited him to drink, smoke the hookah, and gamble with them. If they did so tonight, Harvath had told him to take them up on their offer. Mukami was carrying a radio Harvath had given him, along with a plausible excuse. If the radio was discovered, he would state that the Sienna Star was experiencing an electrical issue and that he needed to be available should his cousin need technical assistance. Once inside, Mukami was to ascertain where the Greek captain was being held and transmit that information to Harvath and Sanchez. They would handle the rest. When they were done going over the operation, Harvath had a personal question for Mukami: “Why?” “What do you mean, why?” the Kenyan replied. “Why do all this? Why work with the pirates?”
“For the same reason everyone else does: for money.” “But the pirates are very bad people.”
“Unfortunately, in Africa,” said Mukami, “we don’t have the luxury of deciding from whom we take our money.” “But you and your cousin seem like good people. You’re educated. You’re polite. You speak multiple languages. For men like you, there have to be other ways to make money.” “No, not for us. Not for the kind of money we need.” “I don’t understand,” said Harvath. “My sister and Pili’s sister went abroad. They paid bad men to smuggle them into Europe. They were told they would be given jobs and would be starting over with an opportunity for a better life. It was a lie. They were trafficked. That was two years ago. We have not seen them or heard from them. The men tell us that for more money they can get our sisters back. This is why we have been working for anyone who will pay us and
pay us well.” It was none of his business and now Harvath was sorry he’d pushed. Mukami didn’t want to talk any further and so a hush fell over the boat. There was only the sound of the diesel engines as they made their way toward shore. It was the middle of the night when the resupply boat pulled into the pirates’ port. The pier where they tied up was completely deserted except for a few other resupply boats, their crews long since returned home for the evening. On the other side of the tiny harbor they could see a stem-to-stern string of pirate mother ships and fast attack boats. While piracy was down overall, this village seemed to still be making a very good living at it. Peering out of the resupply boat’s wheelhouse, Harvath and Sanchez took one last look up and down the pier before allowing Mukami to disembark and ready his vehicle. Pili would stay aboard and wait for everyone to return. They watched Mukami walk down the pier to a battered brown Mercedes sedan with one white door and a missing rear window. Once the car was fired up and running, he turned the lights off and then back on to signal the coast was clear.
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After one more thorough look around the harbor, Harvath and Sanchez stepped out of the wheelhouse and onto the dock. Though they had taken steps to disguise themselves as best they could with Somali clothing they’d found aboard the Sienna Star, they would never fool anyone up close. That was fine by both men, though, as they didn’t intend to get up close to anyone other than people they intended to kill. Mukami knew better than to drive the narrow main drag. As soon as passengers were inside the car, turned onto a side street and made the pirates’ stronghold.
up his he for
The village wasn’t very big, but judging from the satellite dishes clustered on all the rooftops, as well as the expensive foreign cars parked in front of some rather impressive compounds, Harvath’s opinion about the profitability of the local piracy trade was right on the money. Mukami slowed down as they were approaching one such compound and told Harvath and Sanchez the pirates’ stronghold was coming up on their left. Music could be heard from inside and lights could be seen from the upper windows. There were no guards in front, which was something Sanchez remarked upon. “They’re pirates,” replied Mukami. “They
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have lots and lots of guns. Who would be dumb enough to steal from them?” Just because it hadn’t ever happened didn’t mean it wouldn’t, and the fact that even Somali pirates suffered from normalcy bias made Harvath chuckle. They were about to learn a very painful and hopefully very expensive lesson. Pulling around the block, Mukami dropped his passengers at an abandoned fisherman’s shack, its windows missing and its roof caved in. “You know what to do?” Harvath asked. Mukami nodded and before Harvath could ask another question he drove off. Sanchez watched the old Mercedes recede into the darkness. “Do you think he can keep it together?” Harvath nodded. “He’s nervous, but we’ve made it worth his while. He’ll do it. Let’s get inside.” The two men hid themselves in the dilapidated dwelling and waited. Twenty minutes later, they heard Mukami’s voice over the radio. He was whispering and his mouth was too close to the microphone, making it very difficult to understand what he was saying. Thankfully, he repeated himself, and Harvath and Sanchez were able to piece together his message. The captain was
at the compound, being kept in a room on the first floor. There were at least thirty men inside. Sanchez let out a quiet whistle. “Thirty. That’s a lot of men in skirts.” “And a lot of men with guns.” “And RPGs” “And RPGs,” Harvath agreed. “Let’s see if we can’t peel some of them off. Ready?” Sanchez nodded as Harvath switched frequencies on his radio to hail the heavily armed support boat team that had been doing the reconnaissance on the tanker, now hovering just out of sight offshore. “Shotgun, this is Norseman. Do you copy? Over.” A moment later, the response came back. “Norseman, this is Shotgun. We copy. Over.” “Shotgun, you are cleared hot. I repeat. You are cleared hot. Bring the rain. Over.” “Roger that, Norseman. Shotgun cleared hot. Bringing the rain. Ninety seconds. Shotgun out.” Looking at Sanchez, Harvath said, “I’m not being paid nearly as much as you, so beer’s on your tab when this is done.” Sanchez shook his head and smiled. “Roger that. Let’s roll.” © BRAD THOR, 2013
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Published on May 30, 2013